Glancing around the interwebs this morning, it seems I’m one of the few bloggers out there who didn’t completely love last night’s new Hannibal episode. It wasn’t outright bad, but I doubt any episode of this show ever will be- Bryan Fuller and the writing team he’s assembled are just too good to ever throw a true dud our way. But this episode featured the kinds of trappings I was worried Hannibal would fall into when it first started: lots of character development but no A-story progression and a killer of the week story that while disgusting, amounted to nothing and was very anticlimactic. In other words, “Coquilles” was filler, much like the feed forced down the throat of a goose destined for foie gras, or in Hannibal’s case, a person destined for foie gras. But that’s why you turn to WithaBang.
First off I should mention that while this was the fourth episode aired, it was actually the fifth in chronology. The actual fourth episode, “Ceuf,” was pulled at the behest of Fuller, who felt its subject matter- something involving child murder- was too sensitive given the nation’s recent rash of real world violence. But as is the case with this show, even killer of the week eps usually progress the A-story forward a bit, so NBC decided to turn the non-child murder portions of “Ceuf” into a series of webisodes that mostly delved into the budding relationship between Hannibal and Abigail Hobbs.
And that’s sorta what bothered me with “Coquilles” is that it didn’t advance the A-story at all, and didn’t feature Abigail. We did get some nice stuff with Crawford’s wife Bella (played by Gina Torres, who basically seems to be on every TV show nowadays) but I don’t know… this never really seemed like an ensemble show to me and now all of a sudden that’s what they’re trying to do to it. I thought the focus would always be on Will and Hannibal and that Jack and Alana and the lab techs would be supporting characters that act to flesh out the world. Adding Abigail as a prominent recurring character makes sense to me as she’s connected to the A-story and I like the idea of her turning into Hannibal’s apprentice. While I like Bella, it just seemed odd to shift the story to Jack all of a sudden.
Now in the final “Ceuf” webisode we did get a scene hinting at the discontent within the Crawford household, with Jack lamenting that he and Bella never had kids (I imagine this tied into the whole child murder thing). Still, the Crawford subplot considerably slowed down the show’s pace, and that’s why as the credits rolled I felt like this episode could have been deleted from the season without impacting the rest of the story at all.
“You guys know I’m gonna eat you, right?”
I will give “Coquilles” props for its truly revolting killer of the week. A man going mad due to a brain tumor hunts down murderers and rapists and skins their backs, then arranges them in a praying pose to watch over him while he sleeps. Gross and creepy, sure. But… nothing… happened. Killer gets three victims, castrates himself, then commits suicide. That’s it. He’s not caught, nothing is gleaned from his atrocities, it’s just filler. I got that the writers wanted the Angel Maker to parallel Bella’s cancer, but even that felt contrived and forced to me. Is that all the Angel Maker amounted to, a cipher for Bella’s pain and a way for Jack to figure out what his wife’s secret is? To me, that’s the definition of filler and not what a good serialized show is all about. I’m fine with having one-off killer of the week episodes, but they need to feel bigger, more meaningful, to not detract from the A-story.
Also, I’m sorry, but that ending was a pretty big stretch. You really want me to believe that the Angel Maker skinned his own back, then tied fish hooks through his gross skin flaps and hung himself from the ceiling of a derelict barn? That’s a really tough pill to swallow and really stretches the boundaries of logic, even for a stylized show about a cannibalistic serial killer. I did like the creepy fake out of the Angel Maker being alive and speaking to Will, but I think that would have been more horrifying if he had actually still been alive and not just another one of Will’s hallucinations. If they really wanted to go this route with the Angel Maker being displayed like that, they should have implied that Hannibal did another copycat kill because there’s really no stretch of the imagination that allows you to believe the Angel Maker did that on his own. How does one skin their own back, anyways?
“Coquilles” did hint at some cool places the story could go down the road, and as always acting and dialogue were top notch, particularly Laurence Fishburne and Gina Torres, who just felt so natural as a couple in troubled waters. I really like Hannibal trying to turn Will and Jack against one another (though that final scene seemed to imply it’s not working)- that’s a very intriguing idea and makes your imagination run wild with possibilities. I get the sense that Hannibal is playing some sort of long con, and that by season’s end he will have hunted, killed and eaten one of the main/recurring characters. My first guess would be that he kills Bella and feeds her to Jack as part of his cannibal fetish seems to involve feeding his victims to unwitting dinner guests. The “Ceuf” webisodes more or less confirmed that he is indeed feeding people to Jack (and probably Will as well) and then there was that bit of dialogue in “Coquilles” involving foie gras that I interpreted as a hint that Hannibal plays long cons with certain, prized victims. When Bella expresses her disgust for the process by which foie gras is acquired, Hannibal refers to an “ethical butcher.” “Be kind to animals and then eat them?” Bella remarks. “I’m afraid I insist on it,” Hannibal responds. “No need for unnecessary suffering.” Hmmm… that’s a loaded line if I’ve ever heard one.
“Mmmm… I sense the slightest hint of truffle oil…”
‘Cause the thing is, Hannibal sure is being nice to the Crawfords. Wining and dining them, giving Bella therapy. Is this the kindness that leads to the ethical butcher? It’s a cool and terrifying idea I have here, but it’s not without its flaws. First off, Bella has cancer and Hannibal does not seem to be one for tainted meat. We were introduced this week to the concept of his hyper smell, and Hannibal implies he can even sense disease with his nose. Would someone with such a heightened sense really wanna eat gross cancer meat? Also, we know Hannibal is a sadist and revels in his victims’ pain, as was the case with his two Minnesota Shrike copycat kills. So the only way my concept makes any sense is if Hannibal has two sets of victims- the fast, easy kills he does for a quick fix, and the long con ones where he first acts nice so as to make the eventual murder and consumption all the more savory. What’s more sadistic than pretending to be someone’s friend only to kill them and then feed them to their husband?.
I don’t think Hannibal is hunting Will, I think he’s just intrigued by him because they share similarities in their personality, most notably their empathy for killers. I don’t think he feels the same sort of kinship with Will as he does with Abigail- as we learned in “Ceuf,” Hannibal’s parents died when he was very young, so I think he sees a lot of himself in Abigail and wants to help her refine her killing. A war for Abigail’s soul will likely arise over the course of the season, with Hannibal trying to tap into her darkness and turn her into a true killer while Will and Alana try to help her recuperate and move past her father’s atrocities.
Overall, not a terrible ep, but it does make me worried that too many of Hannibal’s thirteen (now twelve) episodes will be relegated to filler and lameduck killer of the week installments. I want more Abigail, I want more of Will unwittingly hunting for Hannibal, I want A-story dammit!
I’ll leave you with a random thought I couldn’t elegantly work into the recap: what’s up with the deer buck imagery? Will keeps having these recurring dreams of a deer buck, which I assume is tied to Abigail hunting with her father. Hannibal also has a deer buck statuette in his office which Will noticed this week, but what’s the significance? It’s very cool imagery, but right now it’s going over my head a little- my plebeian brain can’t seem to work out the symbolism. If you have a theory, leave it in the comments below and check back next week for another recap!